Park City School District gets a B+
Park City School District has received its report card, and for the 2004-05 year, it earned a B+.
This might seem a little low for a district that is routinely called the best in Utah, but sets goals for one that wants to be one of the 10 best in the United States. The Park City Education Foundation (PCEF) released this report card this week, judging the school district according to 10 criteria it has been assembling for months. "What we were basically trying to come up with were goals with an ABC range which would indicate a school district is exemplary and providing for all the kids," said Lynn Heinlein, the foundation’s executive director. "I think we do a really great job and it’s good to evaluate these things to see how we should deploy our resources." Although there are independent agencies which evaluate schools and tests which evaluate students, no definitive source judges school districts. So the education foundation formed its own criteria for what a "top 10" district is, and corresponding goals, based on many existing measures of student success. "There wasn’t a template to follow," said Kathy Shurtleff, a member of the assessment committee. "I don’t know that we’re creating our own criteria, we’re looking at other schools that are successful and bring that in to the Park City School District." The "benchmark school districts" the foundation has studied were approximately the same size and diversity as Park City from a variety of geographic areas. The foundation wanted to compare Park City to districts that have only one high school, Heinlein said, as larger districts tend to create specialty or magnet high schools. These districts include Mercer Island, Wash., outside Seattle; Great Neck, New York; Falls Church, Virginia; Oakridge, Tennessee; Piedmont, Calif.; Los Alamos, New Mexico. Criteria The foundation assigned a grade to the district for each of 10 points, earning the district a B+ average.
Point 1: the number of students reading on grade level by third-grade, which was a major issue for former Utah Gov. Olene Walker. According to Utah’s evaluation system, 82 percent of Park City third-graders are proficient readers. Grade: B
Point 2: the number of middle school students who have completed elementary or pre-algebra by the end of eighth-grade. Algebra is a "gateway class" for students to complete basic college preparatory math, Heinlein said. In Park City, 92.3 percent of students fulfill this. Grade: A
Point 3: the graduation rate of the "grade 10 cohort group" according to measurements of federally legislated No Child Left Behind. Districts begin tracking this in the 2005-06 school year, so no data is available yet. Point 4: success on Newsweek and Washington Post reporter Jay Matthews Challenge Index, which gauges the number of Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate exams taken at a high school, divided by its number of graduates. This is the measure which earned Park City a spot on the top 200 high schools in America. Grade: A
Point 5: success on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. The average Park City student taking the test scored higher than three-quarters of the students taking the test across the United States, the report read. Grade: B
Point 6: highly qualified staff, which measures the number of teachers who have advanced degrees and/or National Board Certification. In Park City, 53 percent of teachers meet this. Grade: B Point 7: spending on instructional services. National figures recommend at least 65 percent of district operating funds should go to instruction, which is mostly teacher salaries, the report read. Park City dedicates 64.8 percent, which is very close. Grade: B Point 8: number of high school seniors completing at least three years of one foreign language. The ed foundation set a goal of 70 percent to earn an A in this category, and funding of the International Baccalaureate program is intended to in part increase language skills. In 2004-05, Park City had 62.7 percent of students hit this goal. Grade: B
Point 9: college placement. For an A in this category, the PCEF has a goal of 90 percent of graduates entering a two- or four-year college, multi-year professional training, or the military. In 2005, 86 percent of students fit this. Grade: B Point 10: student involvement. This gauges the number of seniors with at least two years of participation in at least one extra- or co-curricular activity or internship. For an A, the foundation wants 90 percent of students so involved. The foundation will start tracking student involvement this year, so there’s no data yet. The report card is "a good way to evaluate how we’re doing relative to other school districts in the country," Heinlein said. "We’re using these benchmark schools to establish relationships and talk about programs that are useful." The entire report card is available online at board.parkcity.k12.ut.us/Board.nsf/Public. Click on "11/01/2005 Work Session," then "Reports."
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